As Cricket Australia prepares to honour its best cricketers, at Wednesday's Allan Border Medal, here are 10 of the best performances by men's and Southern Stars players over the past year.
- 1. Mitch Starc – 6-28 in World Cup vs NZ in Auckland, Feb 2015.
Australia should have been returning home from Eden Park with their tails between their legs, having made a paltry 151 in their one-dayer against New Zealand. They instead left beaten but with immense self-belief and coming within one wicket of inflicting an astonishing come-from-nowhere victory over the Black Caps.
That was primarily due to a fast bowler, Mitch Starc, who delivered the finest of many performances in his break-out year in international cricket.
Australia were well placed at 1-80 batting first, but lost their way badly as they succumbed to a five-wicket haul from Trent Boult. His 5-28, remarkably, was the second-best performance by a left-armer on the day.
At 1-78 the Black Caps were similarly placed to what Australia had been, with Brendon McCullum swatting the visitors to the boundary at will. While it was Pat Cummins who removed the captain, it was Starc who created the sense of panic. Twice he was on a hat-trick after bowling batsmen with consecutive deliveries: first batsmen Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott and then tail-enders Adam Milne and Tim Southee.
The last of Starc's six wickets came with New Zealand still six runs short of victory. Last man Boult had to block out two deliveries to give Kane Williamson a chance to finish it off at the other end, which he did at the first opportunity to secure a one-wicket victory.
This performance by Starc ignited the fear factor about him among opposition teams, especially for his rapid inswinging yorkers.
- 2. Jess Jonassen – 99 & 54 in Test vs Eng in Canterbury, Aug 2015.
Jess Jonassen's public profile is probably less than the majority of Big Bash League players, let alone men's internationals. But her performance in the Southern Stars' only Test was arguably the equal, or better, of any red-ball effort from an Australian in the past year.
Jonassen has established herself as a regular in the national team, yet had not had an opportunity to don a baggy green until the one-off Test in the winter Ashes tour of England.
The Stars' decision to bat first in Canterbury was in danger of backfiring after they collapsed from 0-66 to 5-99. It was left to the 22-year-old to lead the revival.
Jonassen, an elegant left-hander, shared half-century partnerships with wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy and tail-ender Kristen Beams to drag their first-innings score above 150. She fell only one run short of a century in her debut innings, trapped leg-before to England fast-bowler Katherine Brunt.
Australia were again precariously placed when Jonassen next arrived at the crease, at 4-51 in the second innings. She proceeded to make 54, in a 92-run partnership with Alex Blackwell, to allow her team to declare and set England a target of 263 for victory, which the home team never threatened.
On a pitch that slow and with such inconsistent bounce that England scored below two runs per over in both innings, Jonassen was the only batter to reach 50 – and did it twice. That few saw it live does not change the fact she deserves to be hailed for it.
- 3. David Warner – 163 & 116 in 1st Test vs NZ in Brisbane, Nov 2015.
It has been a long time since New Zealand were considered a serious threat to Australia, although arriving here having not lost a series for almost two and a half years was a sign they deserved respect.
Admittedly the Black Caps' pace attack, particularly Boult, were not at peak form or fitness when the Tests began at the Gabba. But David Warner was just as hindered for Australia, having only just returned from a broken thumb he admitted would probably be painful for years to come.
Batsmen love to make a big influence early in a series. Warner could not have done much more, with a century in each innings to propel Australia to victory.
Warner's 163 in the first innings was the key reason the home team had amassed more than 300 runs by the time the Black Caps claimed their second wicket, of the left-hander.
The visitors' hopes were already all but extinguished by the half-way mark of the match, due to their deficit of 239. Australia's lead had blown out beyond 450 by the time the Caps claimed their next wicket, with Warner and new opening partner Joe Burns blasting their way to 237 within 38 overs.
It was the third time less than two years that the powerful left-hander had scored a century in each innings. While he posted a double-century in the following Test, the ultra batting-friendly conditions in Perth and the fact that match petered out into a draw made his Gabba performance more consequential.
- 4. Adam Voges – 269* in 1st Test vs WI in Hobart, Dec 2015.
Voges' century in his debut innings, in the West Indies, is arguably underrated given the responsibility that fell on him to prevent Australia squandering their advantage from having bowled out the West Indies for 148 on a difficult pitch in Dominica. Nevertheless, when it comes to playing the lead role in a partnership just two runs short of the all-time Australia record, that cannot be glossed over.
Australia's rollicking start in Hobart was in danger of being squandered as David Warner, Joe Burns and Steve Smith all departed in the last 40 minutes of the first session.
The right-hander's first task was to prevent the loss of another wicket before lunch. Australia did lose another wicket just before lunch – unfortunately for the West Indies it was not until the following day, by which stage Voges and Shaun Marsh had plundered a 449-run partnership.
The right-hander was typically punishing of anything wide of off-stump, yet was judicious in knowing when to attack and when to let better deliveries pass.
The attack, missing a fast-bowler after Shannon Gabriel's early injury, was not a patch on some of those to have represented in the West Indies in the team's glory years. Nevertheless, to get within 31 runs of a triple century at a scoring rate nearing a run a ball without ever looking in danger of losing his wicket, or even putting in significant effort, indicated what a fine innings it was.
- 5. David Warner – 253 in 2nd Test vs NZ in Perth, Nov 2015.
If ever there was a time to consider something as a harbinger it was when David Warner crunched the first two deliveries of the WACA Ground Test, off Tim Southee, to the boundary.
By the middle of that first day Warner already had a century to his name. By stumps he had surged to 244 not out, leading to speculation that not only could Matthew Hayden's Australian-record 380 be in doubt, given so long was left in the game, but Brian Lara's 400 not out.
New Zealand's bowlers had been underwhelming in the series opener in Brisbane, and therefore were expected to start living up to expectations in Perth. An unusually docile WACA Ground pitch did not help their cause, but the bigger factor was the form of Warner, who extended his stunning start to the series with two centuries and a hefty double-century in his first three innings against the Black Caps.
The only Australian to exceed Warner's tally of 244 runs in a day was Don Bradman, twice.
The hopes of a monster innings from Warner were extinguished as he fell half an hour into day two. While his innings was not the best of the match – that honour went to the Black Caps' Ross Taylor, for his 290 – and did not come in a victory, it was nevertheless worthy of praise.
- 6. Ellyse Perry – 3-38 & 6-32 in Test vs Eng in Canterbury, Aug 2015.
For much of the past two years Perry's plaudits have come courtesy of her batting, as she justified the long-expected move up the order for Australia in all formats. The one-off Test was a rare double failure with the bat for her, but she more than made amends with what used to be her primary discipline: fast bowling.
The Southern Stars had managed to eke their way to 274 in the first innings of the Test, a good effort given 200 probably would have been a competitive score on the slow Canterbury pitch. That 274 was made to look even more mighty when Perry claimed two wickets with the new ball, including the dangerous Sarah Taylor for a golden duck. She managed only one more wicket for the innings and struggled with overstepping, but those early scalps of Lauren Winfield and Taylor set the basis for Australia earning a 106-run innings lead.
The Stars' final-day declaration gave them about two and a half sessions to bowl out England for a second time.
Perry had to wait slightly longer to strike with the new ball second time around, but in doing so she removed England's two champion batters: Taylor for a duck and captain Charlotte Edwards for 1.
A half-century partnership between Lydia Greenway and Georgia Elwiss for the sixth wicket, compiled across 32 overs, put England in a strong position to salvage a draw.
Perry turned the match by, for the second time in the match, claiming a wicket with her first delivery after lunch. It was the start of a collapse that saw the home team lose their last five wickets within seven overs. Perry's scalp of Elwiss was her ninth of the match. Sarah Coyte's leg-before dismissal of Anya Shrubsole in the following over denied Perry a chance at a 10-wicket haul, but it sealed a victory that Perry was pivotal to achieving.
- 7. Glenn Maxwell – 102 off 53b in World Cup vs SL in Sydney, Mar 2015.
What a time for Glenn Maxwell to make his maiden international century for Australia. He arrived with his team in danger of squandering their position of strength against Sri Lanka, with captain Michael Clarke and Steve Smith departing in consecutive overs. While 4-177 in the 33rd over does not sound disastrous, given the state of the pitch and the opponents' batting depth they needed to sharply accelerate to keep their World Cup quarter-final plans on track.
By the time the home team lost their next wicket, in the 47th over, they had surged 5-337 – a transformation inspired by Shane Watson's 67 off 41 and, primarily, Maxwell.
Right-hander Maxwell has long been a whipping boy due to his willingness to attempt unorthodox shots in pursuit of boundaries. Against Sri Lanka his raw aggression was exactly what was needed to all but snuff out the visitors' hopes, even before their innings began.
Maxwell, twice dropped after passing his half-century, needed just 51 deliveries to bring up his century, fuelled by 10 fours and four sixes. Had it not been for a late lull (by his lofty standards) he would have scored the fastest century ever in a World Cup.
Kumar Sangakkara also made a century, although doing so at just under a run a ball showed how impressive Maxwell had been to score at more than double that rate.
- 8. Josh Hazlewood – 3-66 & 6-70 in 3rd Test vs NZ in Adelaide, Nov 2015.
Josh Hazlewood was battling with the first flat spot in his burgeoning Test career when he was suddenly thrust from the role of workhorse to leading man, after strike bowler Mitch Starc's season-ending foot injury.
The tall right-armer had excelled on his debut last summer and in the subsequent tour of the West Indies, yet had lost his way – and his place in the team – during the Ashes.
Hazlewood had bowled 77 overs across the first two Tests against New Zealand and only claimed four wickets. His toughest stint came on the batting-friendly WACA Ground pitch, on which he finished with 1-134 in the first innings.
The 25-year-old had struck with the new ball in the inaugural pink-ball Test, removing the Black Caps' Martin Guptill, but had then been rendered ineffective as opener Tom Latham led the way with the bat.
The need for Hazlewood to find form became desperate when Starc limped off Adelaide Oval mid-way through the first innings, due to that foot injury. His response can be measured by the fact that eight of the last 14 Black Caps wickets to fall for the match were off his bowling.
Hazlewood needed to be the main man in that second innings and bowled accordingly, taking 6-70 to limit the visitors to 208. It was a significant step in his development.
- 9. Peter Siddle – 2-32 & 4-35 in 5th Test vs Eng at the Oval in London, Aug 2015.
When Peter Siddle missed selection for bowler-friendly conditions at Trent Bridge he feared his Test career was over. With Australia losing that match to concede the Ashes, it seemed assured that the vacancy for the final match of the series, created by Josh Hazlewood's resting, would be filled by the precocious Pat Cummins.
The primary reaction among pundits and punters to the selection of Siddle ahead of Cummins was shock. To some that extended to scorn, with Shane Warne repeatedly criticising the decision to damning veteran Siddle as a "medium-pacer" rather than a fast bowler.
Siddle's first wicket, of Adam Lyth, was fortuitous, as it was a poor delivery the hapless England opener spooned to mid-on. From there, however, he produced a display of bowling that showed why he was getting such positive raps for his bowling in the nets throughout the tour.
Lyth was one of only two wickets the right-armer claimed in the first innings, but his figures did not do justice to the quality of his bowling. Fittingly he led the wickets haul as England were made to follow on.
Siddle maintained the economy he is renowned for – half of his completed overs were maidens – but he complemented this with more swing than was thought possible from him, given his strength is typically movement off the pitch and through the air.
Just when it seemed he was stamped to be a Test discard, Siddle demonstrated that even if he's not a first-choice paceman anymore, Australia cannot afford to discount him completely.
- 10. Pat Cummins – 4-49 in 4th ODI vs Eng in Leeds in Sep 2015.
A four-wicket haul in a losing one-dayer? It was not just what Pat Cummins did that qualified him as having produced one of the best performances for the past year, but how he did it.
Cummins is the great enigma of Australian cricket, and probably world cricket too. He was stunning in his Test debut in late 2011, but his body has not yet allowed him to extend his Test career.
Australia selectors had planned for him to be part of the World Cup attack, but he lost his spot to Josh Hazlewood. It was the resting of Hazlewood, and Mitch Johnson, that gave Cummins an opportunity to shine in the post-Ashes limited-overs series away to England. He did not disappoint.
Right from the start of the series, a Twenty20 in Cardiff, the right-armer showed he still had the pace that set him apart from most in world cricket. It did not matter that his best performance came in a match that saw England regain parity ahead of the final match of the series.
England's Alex Hales can be destructive in any form of the game, yet in Cardiff he looked unable to react to the pace of Cummins. The same happened in Leeds, as he was trapped leg-before in the second over.
While Australia's specialist pacemen, James Pattinson and John Hastings, were plundered for more than eight runs per over, with England captain Eoin Morgan in imperious form, Cummins went at just under five despite relentlessly attacking the stumps. His ability to produce searing bouncers at will meant none of them were able to be comfortable playing him on the front foot.
The form of Cummins throughout the series was arguably more significant than the series victory itself. It was a bitter blow, especially to him, when he succumbed to another back injury a few weeks later, but at least he gave a reminder of what he can – and will – produce when he is fit.
BEST OF THE REST
- Steve Smith – 215 in 1st inns in 2nd Test vs Eng at Lord's in London, July 2015
- Usman Khawaja – 174 in 1st inns in 1st Test vs NZ in Brisbane, Nov 2015.
- Shane Watson – 64 off 66b in World Cup QF vs Pak in Adelaide, Mar 2015.
- Adam Voges – 130 in 1st inns in 1st Test vs WI in Dominica, June 2015.
- Meg Lanning – 104 off 98b in 2nd ODI vs Eng in Bristol, Jul 2015.